Breakout Presbytery

by | Mar 22, 2021

“And who is my neighbor?” Ephesians 4:15-16

We had a very meaningful Presbytery meeting on Saturday. We took several actions, several of which affirmed emerging and veteran leadership in the Presbytery:

  • Charlene Jin Lee was advanced to candidacy in the preparation for ministry process
  • Harlan Redmond’s proposal for Interwoven New Worshiping Community was approved
  • Jeff O’Grady and Jan Cook were granted Honorably Retired status as they leave their pastorates with San Marino Community Church later this spring
  • Ally Lee was elected Stated Clerk for Administration, Steve Salyards elected as Stated Clerk for Judicial Process, and my call as Executive Presbyter was renewed for another 3 years
  • Deidra Goulding was made Moderator of Session for St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in La Puente, and the contracts for Ally Lee with Knox Presbyterian Church in Pasadena and Larry Ballenger with Arcadia Community Church were renewed
  • The Presbytery offering was dedicated to the Immigrant Accompaniment Ministry
  • The June 19 Presbytery meeting was announced as a Zoom-based day of education
  • Presbytery members were invited to an April 22nd discussion on reopening church sanctuaries, and a virtual border trip to learn more about justice for immigrants in May and September.

There was much to be celebrated, and this meeting highlighted many gifted members in our presbytery family. Charlene’s evolving sense of her ministry was affirmed by her youth pastor (Rev. Mark Hong, who is now our Synod Executive and Stated Clerk) to students whom she taught as a seminary professor, such as Bong Bringas. Charlene’s call includes her voice in the public square; her appearance with us coincided with a powerful column in Presbyterian Outlook in response to the March 16 shootings in the Atlanta area, “Aching Hope: Mourning Violence Against Asian-American Women.”

The vision expressed in Harlan Redmond’s proposal for the new worshiping community, Interwoven, was an inspiration to everyone, especially Pasadena residents who know the need for a holistic ministry of empowerment and racial reconciliation that Interwoven anticipates.

It was a testament to the ministry of Jan Cook and Jeff O’Grady—and as Jan later wrote, God’s “holy synchronicity”—that the meeting affirming their retirement also affirmed Charlene and Harlan, who are both members of San Marino Community Church. As Jeff and Jan retire in May and June, they can see how they contributed to the next generation of leaders as pastors and CPM chair.

But importantly, this meeting also marked the Presbytery’s commitment to focus on dismantling structural racism throughout this year. Dismantling structural racism is one of three priorities set by the national church as we follow the vision of being a Matthew 25 Church. The other two priorities are eradicating systemic poverty and supporting congregational vitality.

Because of the diversity in our presbytery membership, we can learn a lot just from getting to know each other better. So we had three breakout room conversations in the meeting, to check in on the

state of our world, to share our personal experiences of racism, and to share how we have—or have not—taken action to confront racism in our individual lives.

In just these short interchanges, I heard of a COVID-induced conversation group that started among one person’s diverse neighbors, and how people stood up for people with disabilities whom they love. It confirmed for me the importance of relationships, because it’s easier for people to confront racism if they have beloved people in their lives who would be hurt by that racism, just as they felt for their loved ones who were hurt when they were ridiculed for their disabilities. And getting to know and appreciate your neighbors is a great way to love more people with whom you can stand in solidarity.

Finally, a survey was made available, so presbytery members can share their interest in various discussion groups, participation in the Intercultural Development Inventory, the virtual border trips, and/or participating in leadership in the Presbytery. If you have not yet taken the survey, please do so by clicking here.

Last week, I happened to see a Facebook post from Pasadena Presbyterian Church from a year ago, after our own Rev. Dr. Casper Glenn gave a talk on his friendship with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The post ended with this:

When someone in the group mentioned that it was an honor to hear these stories from a person who had so much to do with the civil rights movement, Rev. Glenn put his arms around everyone and said, “it is great for all of us to be together.”

This is my hope, that we fight against racism not as brave individuals, but because it is great for all of us to be together, and to more fully enjoy God’s marvelous creativity in crafting each one of us. It may be uncomfortable to reflect on the ways we are infected by racism, but just like confession, just like Lent, it’s important for us to reject what is not of God, so that we may rejoice in the new life that Jesus suffered to create for us. So I pray that this presbytery meeting was not just a breakout for how we use Zoom, but it marked the beginning of us being an even stronger and more vibrant reflection of God’s kin-dom.

Thank you for being partners on this journey.

In Christ’s peace,